Brucella abortus ΔrpoE1 confers protective immunity against wild type challenge in a mouse model of brucellosis

The Brucella abortus general stress response (GSR) system regulates activity of the alternative sigma factor, σ(E1), which controls transcription of approximately 100 genes and is required for persistence in a BALB/c mouse chronic infection model. We evaluated the host response to infection by a B. abortus strain lacking σ(E1) (ΔrpoE1), and identified pathological and immunological features that distinguish ΔrpoE1-infected mice from wild-type (WT), and that correspond with clearance of ΔrpoE1 from the host. ΔrpoE1 infection was indistinguishable from WT in terms of splenic bacterial burden, inflammation and histopathology up to 6 weeks post-infection. However, Brucella-specific serum IgG levels in ΔrpoE1-infected mice were 5 times higher than WT by 4 weeks post-infection, and remained significantly higher throughout the course of a 12-week infection. Total IgG and Brucella-specific IgG levels peaked strongly in ΔrpoE1-infected mice at 6 weeks, which correlated with reduced splenomegaly and bacterial burden relative to WT-infected mice. Given the difference in immune response to infection with wild-type and ΔrpoE1, we tested whether ΔrpoE1 confers protective immunity to wild-type challenge. Mice immunized with ΔrpoE1 completely resisted WT infection and had significantly higher serum titers of Brucella-specific IgG, IgG2a and IFN-γ after WT challenge relative to age-matched naïve mice. We conclude that immunization of BALB/c mice with the B. abortus GSR pathway mutant, ΔrpoE1, elicits an adaptive immune response that confers significant protective immunity against WT infection.

Willett JW, Herrou J, Czyz DM, Cheng JX, Crosson S. Brucella abortus ΔrpoE1 confers protective immunity against wild type challenge in a mouse model of brucellosis. Vaccine. 2016 Sep 30;34(42):5073-5081. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.08.076. Epub 2016 Aug 31. PubMed PMID: 27591954; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5026968.

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